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Sky Blue FC’s scoring woes continue in loss to Atlanta

Posted on 20 July 2010 by lbarker

The Atlanta Beat came to New Jersey with something to prove. The expansion Beat currently sit in last place in the Women’s Professional Soccer table and had just one win on the season coming into Sunday night’s match. A win against defending WPS champions Sky Blue FC would go a long way towards making the case that the Beat are on the way up. Perhaps more importantly it would avenge the 1-0 loss to Sky Blue on an own-goal that put a damper on the Beat’s home opener in early May.

After 90 minutes the visitors left with three points while the home team was left simply shaking their heads. A seventh minute strike from Eniola Aluko was enough to give the Beat the win against a struggling Sky Blue side. For Jersey’s team, the 1-0 loss raised some serious questions about goals, or lack thereof. Sky Blue has scored just two goals at home all season, one in the sixth minute of the season opener on April 11th and one on a Rosana penalty kick on June 19th. Sky Blue head coach Pauliina Miettinen summed up her team’s poor performance simply: “We just didn’t have the fire in the first half and I don’t even know what happened on the goal. I know there was a cross but I don’t know what– something caused it. We just didn’t have quality pressure on the ball.”

Atlanta applied pressure often in the opening frame. In the fourth minute Beat striker Eniola Aluko was able to dribble inside the 18 yard box before taking a shot that went right at Sky Blue goalkeeper Kristin Luckenbill. Three minutes later Beat midfielder Angie Kerr sent a long cross into the box which Aluko was able to tap past Luckenbill to put the Beat up 1-0. The seventh minute tally was Aluko’s 5th of the season, but her first as a member of the Beat. “One of the objectives of the forwards today was to make very good runs whenever the midfield got the ball and kind of keep the back four on their toes” said Aluko. “Whenever Angie Kerr or Aya Miyama got the ball I was looking to run in behind. And Angie [Kerr] played a great ball and I got on the end of it and fortunately we scored.”

In the 12th minute Aluko had another opportunity for the visitors but her shot was easily saved by Luckenbill.

Sky Blue FC had their first real opportunity – and their first shot on goal of the match – in the 15th minute, but Tasha Kai’s header was saved by Beat ‘keeper Hope Solo. Solo was playing in net for the Beat the day after playing the full 90 for the US Women’s National Team in their 3-0 victory over Sweden in Connecticut. Solo said she did consider not playing for the second night in a row. “I’m pretty beat up, but for me it’s more of a mental game. As long as I’m prepared mentally I’ll be okay physically” said the Beat ‘keeper after the match. “I was pretty slow in the warmup. But you know, at the end of the day, you want to win. I’m a competitor.”

In the 20th minute Rosana took a shot from the top of the 18 that went over the crossbar. Five minutes later the Brazilian International sent another ball over the bar, this one coming off a free kick from about 25 yards out.

Sky Blue FC had what was their best chance of the half in the 41st minute. Kai fed a ball through to Patrizia Panico who took a shot that was saved by Solo. In the 43rd Sky Blue had one final chance also courtesy of Panico, but the Italian International’s shot rolled across the goalmouth and the half ended with the Beat up 1-0.

Sky Blue put some early pressure on the Beat at the start of the second half, first with Daphne Koster making a run towards Solo to get on the end of a deflected free kick. The Dutch International was was beaten to the ball by the Beat keeper. In the 54th minute Rosana tried to send a ball through to Kai but Beat defender Tina Ellertson did just enough to keep Kai from getting a clean shot off. Kai returned to lineup after missing the team’s trip to Chicago last weekend. “It’s good to be back. Played a full 90. We fought hard to the end. I threw everything I got at them, and did everything I could and we came up short. I thought the second half was the better half for us. We just didn’t put one away and they did so, we have stuff to work on for next week” she said after the game.

In the 61st minute Sky Blue had their best chance of the game. Panico fired a hard shot that rang off the crossbar. Kai was able to get her head on the rebound, but ball sailed just wide. In the 68th minute the last good chance for either team came again from Sky Blue. Midfielder Yael Averbuch took a low hard shot that again, went wide.

Both teams traded possession for the remainder of the match and at the final whistle the 1-0 score was enough to give Atlanta their second win of the season. The loss had little affect on Sky Blue’s place in the table, as a Washington Freedom loss earlier in the day kept the DC team one point behind the blue and orange, who currently sit in third with ten games to go. “Two different teams – first half, second half. One with no fire in the first half and when you’ve got nothing to lose you’ve got fire and a totally different game the second half” said Sky Blue coach Miettinen.

Atlanta Beat coach Gareth O’Sullivan was happy with his team’s performance, and called the work of the Beat back line “superb.” “They really fought for everything and did a great job” O’Sullivan said. Aluko also acknowledged her team, as well as a common theme in WPS; parity. “I think in this league anybody can beat anybody on the day. Sky Blue are third, we’re bottom of the league and we just beat them, so every team is talented and I believe in this team, I believe in the talent.”

Solo’s clean sheet was good for her third of the season. But it comes against a Sky Blue FC team that hasn’t scored a goal since their 2-0 victory away against FC Gold Pride on June 27th. They’ve been shutout their last three matches, including their first ever defeat against the Chicago Red Stars on July 10th. The New Jersey team will attempt to right the ship next weekend as they take on the Philadelphia Independence. It will be a tough task for the blue and orange, as they’ve never beaten the Indys in two tries and Philly may also be looking to right its ship after two consecutive losses of their own.

FUN FACTS:
Hope Solo wasn’t the only player in the match who played for the US on Saturday night. Sky Blue defenders Meghan Schnur and Christie Rampone also appeared for the US – Schnur was replaced by Rampone in the 70th minute of the international friendly…Atlanta’s Ramona Bachmann was unavailable for the Beat due to National Team commitments – the 19 year old is currently playing with Switzerland in the U-20 World Cup in Germany…Heather O’Reilly played the full 90 for the US on Saturday and wasn’t available for Sky Blue on Sunday as a result. Miettinen said that Sky Blue simply “just didn’t want to risk her health” but also acknowledged that the team missed the workhorse midfielder…Sky Blue FC wore red jerseys, which were auctioned off during the match, as a benefit for the American Heart Association…Sky Blue defender Brittany Taylor had her number retired by her former W-League team, the Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues, on Wednesday. Taylor wore number 13 for Quickstrike, but wears 14 for Sky Blue…Tina Ellertson returned to the Beat lineup after missing several games due to injury…the Beat’s Kia McNeill was unavailable for Atlanta. The defender was serving the third and final game of a three-match suspension for a studs up challenge on FC Gold Pride goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart on July 3rd.

MATCH FACTS:
Sky Blue FC (5-6-3) vs. Atlanta Beat (2-7-4)
Sunday, July 18, 2010 — Yurcak Field
FINAL

SCORING SUMMARY:
Team 1 2 F
NJ: 0 0 0
ATL: 1 0 1

ATL: Eniola Aluko (Angie Kerr) 7′

SKY BLUE FC — Kristin Luckenbill, Brittany Taylor, Daphne Koster, Christie Rampone, Keeley Dowling (Meghan Schnur, 46′), Yael Averbuch, Laura Kalmari (Kendall Fletcher, 46′), Kacey White, Tasha Kai, Rosana, Patrizia Panico (Kiersten Dallstream, 81′)

Substitutes Not Used: India Trotter, Jenni Branam, Katie Schoepfer, Angela Salem

ATLANTA BEAT — Hope Solo, Leigh Ann Robinson, Tina Ellertson, Stacy Bishop, McCall Zerboni (Amanda Cinalli, 75′), Angie Kerr, Carolyn Blank, Aya Miyama, Eniola Aluko (Lauren Sesselmann, 79′), Mami Yamaguchi, Johanna Rasmussen (Rebecca Nolin, 70′)

Substitutes Not Used: Katie Larkin, Brett Maron

TEAM STATS:
NJ ATL

Shots 17 16
Shots on Goal 6 6
Fouls 6 13
Offsides 1 2
Corner Kicks 3 8
Saves 5 4

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY:
ATL: Lauren Sesselmann (Caution) 85’

Referee: Margaret Domka
Referee Assistants: Melanie Johnson, Emilie Buse
4th Official: Emilie Buse
Attendance: 2, 808

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